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Bristol Airport planning application

Bristol Airport key information

Who runs the appeals process

The independent Planning Inspectorate run appeals on behalf of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The rules for appeals are set by the Government.

Who decides the appeal

The Planning Inspectorate have appointed a panel of three inspectors to hear all the arguments for and against the proposals.

The inspectors will then issue a decision letter with their conclusions on the appeal. It will also include reasons for allowing or dismissing the appeal, as appropriate.

In some situations, the Secretary of State may decide to make the decision himself. This is called a 'recovered appeal'.

In a recovered appeal, an inspector will write a report that will make a recommendation on how to determine the appeal. This will then be passed to the Secretary of State to make the decision, taking into account the Inspector's recommendation.

When a decision is made on whether to recover a planning appeal, it follows the written ministerial statement.

Parliament UK website - written ministerial statement

Submit a comment

The deadline for sending comment to PINs closed on 22 February. PINs will take into account all comments received when deciding the appeal.

When and where the inquiry will be held

The public inquiry will begin on 20 July and is expected to run for approximately 40 sitting days until mid-October. There will be two breaks:

  • two weeks from 16 to 27 August
  • the week of 20 September 

The inquiry will be held in the Town Hall in Weston-super-Mare. Due to space restrictions public access will be very limited. 

You can watch the inquiry from home. The links to watch live on YouTube will be published on the inquiry website. Recordings of previous sessions of the inquiry will also be made available.

How to attend the inquiry

The event will be live streamed on YouTube. Because of the limited space and the need to maintain social distancing, members of the public and media are strongly encouraged to watch the inquiry online and not attend in person.

The links to watch live on YouTube will be published on the inquiry website. Recordings of previous sessions of the inquiry will also be made available.

Inquiry procedures

It is not a court of law, but the proceedings will appear quite similar. It is common for experts to present evidence. Witnesses may be questioned by the lawyers representing the council, appellant, and other groups. This is often referred to as being “cross-examined”. Some parts of the appeal may be dealt with through round table hearings chaired by the Inspector.

During the pandemic, the Planning Inspectorate and the council have had to adjust arrangements to maintain social distancing.

The Planning Inspectorate have provided guidance about their approach to appeals during the pandemic.

GOV.UK website - planning coronavirus guidance

We intend the public inquiry will be a blend of both virtual and traditional face to face sessions (with social distancing in place).

How to participate

Although members of the public do not have a legal right to speak, the Inspector will normally make arrangements to allow you to do so provided you have let them know in advance. If you want to speak at the inquiry, it is important that you contact the Programme Officer for further information. 

The Programme Officer’s contact details are on the inquiry website.

You will need to think carefully about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Some people prefer to make, or read out, a brief statement giving their views. If there are several people with the same views, it is a good idea for one person to speak on behalf of the others. A group of interested people may appoint one agent, solicitor, or barrister (who would be their “advocate”) to represent them all. 

Planning Inspectorate - guide to taking part in planning appeals

Some groups have asked to take a very active part in the inquiry and have therefore been granted “Rule 6” status by the Planning Inspectorate. Those groups have each submitted a statement. Full statements setting out their evidence can be viewed on the inquiry website

Planning Inspectorate - guide to rule 6

People with disabilities

If you, or anyone you know, need to view to the inquiry and you have particular needs, please contact the us. We can make appropriate arrangements to ensure that the inquiry is accessible.

Council representatives

As the planning application was recommended for approval by council officers, it is not appropriate for those officers to be the main witnesses at the inquiry.

A team of consultants will therefore be used to present the council’s case. Reuben Taylor QC has been appointed to lead the case.

Appeal costs and who pays

All parties are expected to pay their own costs of participating in the appeal. Only if the Inspector considers that one party acted unreasonably might they order them to pay costs.

GOV.UK website - award of costs

The Statement of Case

Once the appeal process started, both the appellant, the council and any other party with “Rule 6” status (see above) must within five weeks of the formal start of the appeal submit an initial statement outlining the case they will make at the public inquiry.

Sometimes referred to as a “Rule 6 Statement”, this is effectively a skeleton of the full evidence that will be submitted in full proofs of evidence by witnesses at the public inquiry.

The Rule 6 statements are posted on the Programme Officer website

Proof of Evidence

A ‘proof of evidence’ is a document containing the detailed written evidence which a person appearing as a witness at a public inquiry will present. Having a ‘proof of evidence’ allows everybody to see the evidence the witnesses will present at the public inquiry. The witnesses may then be cross examined at the inquiry on the contents of their proof of evidence. At the public inquiry, the proof of evidence is normally taken as read although the witness is expected to read out a summary of it. 

All the proofs of evidence can now be viewed on the Programme Officer website.

Statement of Common Ground

In all public inquiries, the Planning Inspectorate needs appellants and local planning authorities to submit a statement that lists all the issues where there is agreement. This is because the Planning Inspectorate wants councils and appellants to work together to agree common ground. This will help the Inspector identify the areas of dispute and reduce the quantity of material which needs to be submitted.

The statement is not optional and must list all agreed matters including basic facts such as:

  • the site description
  • area
  • planning history
  • relevant planning policies

and as many other matters as possible relating to the application. 

In this case the Statement of Common Ground (SoCG) has been submitted in two parts. Part 1 deals with general matters and has been completed. Part 2 deals with specific topics. 

The Statement of Common Ground (SoCG) can be viewed on the Programme Officer website

How the council will ensure planning conditions and S106 agreement requirements going forward

Before the Inquiry is held the Inspector will require the appellant and the council to agree what conditions and legal agreements should be used in the event that the appeal is allowed, and permission granted. This is normal requirement in planning appeals and does not prejudice the council’s case.

The fact that potential conditions and legal agreements are suggested does not mean that the appeal will be allowed, and planning permission granted. Nor does it mean that if the appeal is allowed, the agreed conditions will automatically be imposed. This is because the final decision rests with the Inspector who will normally hold a discussion during the public inquiry about the conditions which may be imposed if the proposal is granted planning permission. This is so the inspector can be satisfied that the suggested conditions comply with the relevant Government tests for the use of planning conditions.

Meetings before the inquiry

Case Management conferences are arranged by the Planning Inspectorate with the appellant, council, any Rule 6 parties, and anyone else invited by the Inspectors.

The purpose of these meetings is for an Inspector (not necessarily the Inspector deciding the appeal) to set out what the main issues are likely to be and any other matters that may need to be addressed. The Inspector will also consider how the evidence can best be addressed in order to conduct the inquiry in the most efficient and effective manner.

Case Management conferences have been held on 8th March and 30 June 2021 for which summary notes are shown below and on the Programme Officer website.

Inspector visits to the airport

The Planning Inspectors will hold a formal site visit which normally takes place at the end of the public inquiry. The purpose of this is for the Inspectors to see the site and its surroundings and expressly not to hear new evidence.

All the arguments for or against the proposal must therefore be made at the formal sittings of the public inquiry. Normally, before the inquiry closes, the Inspector will discuss and agree the locations to be visited. The inspector is usually accompanied on the site visit by representatives of the main parties at the appeal.

Challenges to the appeal decision

Once the appeal has been decided there is no further right of appeal. The decision can only be challenged in a court of law by requesting a judicial review. A claim for judicial review is a request to review the lawfulness of the decision in relation to the exercise of a public function. Requests for a judicial review must be made to:

GOV.UK website - planning court

Within six weeks of the date of the appeal decision.

Who to contact about the inquiry

An independent Programme Officer, Joanna Vincent, has been appointed to manage the day to day public inquiry arrangements for the Inspectors. Further details can be found on the Programme Officer’s website.

PINs have appointed Leanne Palmer as their case officer. You can contact her via email or post if you have any more general inquiries.

Appeal queries

Leanne Palmer, The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3/J, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol, BS1 6PN.

Getting help

If you would like help in taking part in the appeal, you can appoint your own advisor, or you can contact Planning Aid.

Planning Aid provides free and independent professional advice on town and country planning issues to people and groups who cannot afford consultancy fees:

Planning Aid England, 41-42 Botolph Lane, London EC3R 8DL

Advice Line: 0330 123 9244

Switchboard: 020 7929 9494

email: info@planningaid.rtpi.org.uk

Website: www.rtpi.org.uk/planningaid